Editor’s Note: it was incorrectly stated that Kaitlin Ergun is an electical engineering major. She is a chemical engineering major. Also, it was incorrectly stated that the project cost $1,500.The project cost nearly $14,000 in total.
Thanks to the UCSB chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), the residents of Araypallpa, population 450, can now study late into the night.
A team of 11 EWB members visited the small Peruvian farming village of Araypallpa in July, installing solar panels that provide a source of electricity for lighting used in classrooms. This is a vast improvement over the previously used kerosene lamps.
Kaitlin Ergun, a senior electrical engineering major and the secretary of the UCSB chapter of EWB, said that everyone in the village will benefit from the installation.
“There’s a women’s group learning how to read and write,” Ergun said. “We installed a lighting system in two classrooms [in which] they were using kerosene lamps. Now they can use electricity.”
Members of EWB spent significant time with the people of Araypallpa to get an idea of their needs. The EWB team surveyed locals on everything from their heath and hygiene to education and economic information.
“[The survey] also included getting to know the town, the people and making friends so that they would help us … We got information on what was already installed,” Ergun said. “People were really supportive.”
The team also performed surveys as part of the research necessary for the future installation of a safer water system.
“We didn’t want to do anything that would be imposing,” Ergun said. “We wanted them to have full participation in everything.”
Tammy Ben-Yaacov, who graduated in June 2004 with a degree in electrical engineering, acted as project leader. Ben-Yaacov oversaw the installation of the solar lighting system and the research for the water purification system.
“We have a few projects going on. The one in Peru is continuous, and we’re going back there next summer,” Ben-Yaacov said. “There’s also a project going on in Thailand.”
The group members managed to raise all funds to go on the trip themselves, even though they formed the EWB chapter only nine months before leaving for Peru.
Between tostada sales and private donations, the UCSB chapter saved enough money to fund the trip. The project required about $1,500, with each team member contributing a few hundred dollars of personal money to make the trip possible.
Ergun said there will be a general meeting on Oct. 6, 2004 at 5 p.m. in the Engineering II Pavilion, at which EWB will be looking for new members.
“We’re going to go over all the projects that are going on, and we’ll be looking at seeing how we can involve new people in our chapter,” Ergun said. “Anybody can be involved. You don’t have to be an engineer. There’s something for everybody in this chapter. Any level of involvement would be great.”
Group members actively encourage people from all fields of study to join. William Martinez, a second-year graduate student in material science, is the president of the UCSB chapter.
“When we go next year [to Peru], we’re thinking about involving students from film studies too, so they can document the project,” Martinez said.
“It’s really good to have different perspectives and people with different qualities in the group,” Ben-Yaacov said.
Plans for the next year seem to be just as interactive and enriching as the first, Ben-Yaacov said. Future plans include further work with an improved water purification system in Peru and better conditions for Araypallpa’s school, as well as projects in Thailand.
“The people [in Peru] were amazing. We made great friendships with the people of Araypallpa,” Ergun said. “We were the first group of people to go into their community [to help] and I had never received such a welcome in my entire life.”